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EBITDA: Meaning, Importance, Formula, Calculation & Example

By Generational Equity


Understanding, determining and applying EBITDA plays an important role in uncovering the value of your business and maximizing your exit strategy.

From breaking down the definition and formulas of EBITDA, to outlining why it is an important term in the process of valuing and selling a business, this comprehensive guide will demonstrate what EBITDA is and what it means for your company.

Table of Contents

What is EBITDA?

In its simplest definition, EBITDA is a measure of a company’s financial performance, acting as an alternative to other metrics like revenue, earnings or net income.

EBITDA is how many people determine business value as it places the focus on the financial outcome of operating decisions. It does this by removing the impacts of non-operating decisions made by the existing management, such as interest expenses, tax rates, or significant intangible assets.

This leaves a figure that better reflects the operating profitability of a business, one that can effectively be compared between companies by owners, buyers and investors. It is for that reason many employ EBITDA over other metrics when deciding which organization is more attractive.

[Discover the definition of other key M&A terms.]

What does EBITDA stand for?

The meaning of EBITDA’s acronym is broken down to the following:

E – Earnings

B – Before

I – Interest

T – Taxes

D – Depreciation

A – Amortization

Below is a more in-depth definition of the key terms in Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization:

  • Interest – the expenses to a business caused by interest rates, such as loans provided by a bank or similar third-party.
  • Taxes – the expenses to a business caused by tax rates imposed by their city, state, and country as a whole.
  • Depreciation – a non-cash expense referring to the gradual reduction in value of a company’s assets
  • Amortization – a non-cash expense referring to the cost of intangible (non-balance sheet) assets over time.


The definition of LTM (Last Twelve Months) EBITDA, also known as Trailing Twelve Months (TTM), is a valuation metric that shows your earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization adjustments over the past 12 months.

EBIT vs EBITDA: What are the differences?

The prevailing difference between EBITDA and EBIT is the number of steps taken. EBIT (Earnings Before Interest and Tax) only presents an earning value without the impact of interest and tax rates. EBITDA goes further by also identifying and removing the expenses related to depreciation and amortization.

So, it is not actually a case of EBITDA vs EBIT. Both are useful to refer to when building up a picture of the value of a company, breaking down clearly business expenses and the relative impact they have on its worth.

Other variations of EBITDA worth noting are as follows:

  • EBIAT (Earnings Before Interest After Taxes)
  • EBID (Earnings Before Interest and Depreciation)
  • EBIDA (Earnings Before Interest, Depreciation and Amortization)
  • EBITDAX (Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation, Amortization and Exploration)
  • EBITDAR (Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation, Amortization and Restructuring/Rent Costs)
  • EBITDARM (Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation, Amortization, Rent and Management Fees)

All calculations can be incredibly useful in the process of discovering the value of a business, which is why they are regularly applied by prospective buyers and investors to compare companies. For this reason, our experienced M&A professionals use EBITDA as a key part of our clients’ preparations for exiting their business, alongside many other tools and methods.

How to calculate EBITDA

Calculating EBITDA in your company can be done using one of two formulas, both producing the same result.


EBITDA Formula 1



EBITDA Formula 2


All of the information required to complete either EBITDA formula should be included on your balance sheet. However, this illustrates the importance of keeping accurate financials. A single mistake in these values will lead to an inaccurate EBITDA, which could overvalue or undervalue your company’s profitability.

Therefore, we would recommend investing in a quality accounting system or working with trusted accountants to ensure your finances are up-to-date and precise.

What is a good EBITDA?

In order to figure out whether your EBITDA number is ‘good’ or not, you’ll need to calculate your EBITDA margin.

What is the EBITDA Margin?

The formula for an EBITDA margin is as follows:

EBITDA margin = EBITDA / Total Revenue

By determining a percentage of EBITDA against your company’s overall revenue, this margin gives an indication of how much cash profit a business makes in a single year. If your business has a larger margin than another, it is likely a professional buyer will see more growth potential in yours.

For example, let’s say Company A has determined their EBITDA is $600,000, while their total revenue is $6,000,000. This results in an EBITDA margin of 10%. This is then compared to Company B, which has a larger EBITDA of $750,000, but with total revenue of $9,000,000.

This means that while Company B demonstrates higher EBITDA, it actually has a smaller margin than Company A (8% against 10%). Therefore, a prospective buyer weighing up both businesses might see more promise in A over B.

So, by using the EBITDA margin, an investor, owner or analyst can see how much operating cash is generated relative to all revenue earned, and can use this as a benchmark in deciding which is the most financially efficient.

EBITDA Coverage Ratio

Another demonstration of how good your EBITDA number is can be found using the EBITDA Coverage Ratio. The formula for this is:


EBITDA Coverage Ratio

If you apply this formula to your business and the result is 1 or greater, it indicates to prospective buyers or investors that your company is in a better position to pay off any debts, liabilities and other obligations. This is what is so useful about EBITDA – the variety of ways it can indicate an organization’s performance.

What is adjusted EBITDA?

The differences between EBITDA and adjusted EBITDA are subtle, but important to know. In essence, adjusted EBITDA normalizes this value based on a company’s incomes and expenses. These can vary greatly between companies, making it difficult for analysts and buyers to accurately determine if the business is more appealing than another.

By standardizing income and cash flows, as well as eliminating any abnormalities (redundant assets, bonuses to owners, rent paid above market value, etc.), this makes it easier for people to compare multiple businesses at once, regardless of differences in industry, location and more.

Calculating adjusted EBITDA is simply using one of the standard EBITDA formulas above, but prior to this go a step further by removing the cost of the various one-time, irregular and non-recurring expenses that don’t have a bearing on the day-to-day running of your company.

What’s excluded in adjusted EBITDA?

Here is a concise list of the common balance sheet features excluded when applying adjusted EBITDA:

  • Non-operating income
  • Unrealized gains or losses
  • Non-cash expenses
  • One-time gains or losses
  • Share-based compensation
  • Litigation expenses
  • Special donations
  • Above-market owners’ compensation
  • Goodwill impairments
  • Asset write-downs
  • Foreign exchange gains or losses

Why is EBITDA important?

How to calculate and apply EBITDA is important for business owners for two key reasons:

  1. Getting a clearer idea of your company’s value.
  2. Demonstrating to buyers and investors its worth.

As discussed earlier, EBITDA helps you analyze and compare profitability between companies and industries, as it eliminates the effects of financing, government or accounting decisions. This provides a rawer, clearer indication of your earnings.

Above all else, EBITDA’s importance is now as the standout formula and language applied by professional buyers, private equity investors and more when discussing business value. It is often used as a proxy for cash flow, and can help provide an estimated valuation range for your company overall by using the EBITDA multiple.

What is the EBITDA Multiple?

To work out the EBITDA multiple, you first need to know your Enterprise Value (EV). This is calculated by finding the sum of the following in your organization:

  • Market capitalization
  • Value of debt
  • Minority interest
  • Preferred shares

And then minus your cash and cash equivalents (bank accounts, marketable securities, treasury bills, etc.). Then, use this formula:

EBITDA Multiple = Enterprise Value / EBITDA

The Enterprise Value (EV) / EBITDA Multiple Calculation

The EV/EBITDA multiple ratio indicates to analysts, M&A professionals and financial advisors whether your company is either overvalued or undervalued – if your ratio is high, it means your company might be overvalued, while a low ratio indicates it’s undervalued. The benefit to the EBITDA multiple is that it takes company debt into account, which other multiples like the Price-to-Earnings ratio doesn’t consider.

When preparing to market and communicate with buyers as part of your exit strategy, you want to speak to them in their terms and present financials they’ll be familiar with. Therefore, using an EBITDA formula and presenting the results in your documentation is crucial to give buyers insight into your company’s potential.

[Which company valuation method is right for you?]

Net Income vs EBITDA

While EBITDA is defined as an indication of a company’s ability to make a consistent profit, net income outlines a company’s total earnings. This difference means net income is preferably used to determine the value of earnings per share of a business, rather than its overall earning potential, which is where EBITDA proves useful.

EBITDA = Net Income + Interest + Taxes + Depreciation + Amortization

Net Income = Revenue – Business Expenses

Operating income vs EBITDA

Operating income is a company’s profit after subtracting operating expenses, such as depreciation and amortization. EBITDA goes the step further of stripping these out entirely to develop a firm understanding of a company’s profitability.

Nevertheless, both are useful calculations to apply when valuing a business, as operating income is effective at analyzing the production efficiency of a company’s core operations and expense management.

How to increase EBITDA

When presenting your company’s EBITDA and other financials for the purpose of exiting the business, you should aim to present data stretching back 3-5 years. This volume of information demonstrates the development of your business over time, reassuring buyers that your growth potential is consistent, and you haven’t just had one remarkable year.

The extent of these projections is why we strongly counsel our clients to work with us and financial experts to present values that are realistic, dependable and defendable. The more accurate these are, the lower the risk associated with your company from prospective buyers and investors.

Of course, after you’ve determined your company’s EBITDA, you’ll likely aim to increase this value before placing it on the market. Fortunately, this can be achieved through recasting your financials.

Recasting your EBITDA Value

Recasting is defined as the amending and re-releasing of previously released earning statements with a specified intent. In practice, this is where an expert will cast a keen eye on your financials to reinsert any one-off earnings or expenses.

This reexamination paints a more accurate and promising picture for potential buyers of your company’s worth and potential. Do not confuse it for manipulating your statements – due diligence will uncover any inconsistencies, so this is not an opportunity to hide the facts.

Many aspects that can be recast to increase the EBITDA of your company and present a more accurate picture of its value. These include:

  • Revenue/expenses from unnecessary assets – for instance, if you annually rent a country house for a company retreat, this is an expense that may not be picked up by a buyer.
  • Owner salaries/bonuses – these will likely be greater than other employees, but will not be costs that a new owner must follow.
  • One-time fees – if you spent money on a legal dispute or a one-time marketing campaign, these are not ongoing costs that a buyer would have to take on.
  • Non-arms-length revenue/expenses – these are transactions where your company pays more or less than market rates, such as rent when the building is personally owned by one of the partners. These can and should be normalized to reflect their correct market value.
  • Repairs/maintenance – often, private business owners will categorize capital expenses as repairs to minimize taxes, but this hurts its valuation down the road by reducing your historical EBITDA.

These five areas are just a selection of the key areas you might seek to normalize EBITDA and ensure it is maximized and represents a fair reflection of your business valuation.

Benefits and Drawbacks of EBITDA in Business Valuations

As a widely-used business valuation metric, EBITDA presents significant benefits for owners, analysts and acquirers in presenting a fair reflection of a company’s value. However, it is also important to note that it is a metric that can be exploited, leading to negative consequences down the road.

Benefits of EBITDA

  1. It’s commonly used – as mentioned earlier, EBITDA is very commonly employed by many groups, notably buyers and investors. So, it is a language that they are very familiar with, meaning they can use it effectively to compare business valuations.
  2. It eliminates unhelpful variables – by removing elements like interest rates, tax rates, depreciation and amortization that are unique from business to business, this provides a strict illustration of a company’s operating performance.
  3. It’s easy to calculate – all formulas associated with EBITDA are straightforward to determine as long as your financials are accurate. This also makes it easy to understand on all sides of any negotiations
  4. It’s reliable – as it enables investors to fully focus on a company’s baseline profitability, EBITDA is considered a more reliable indicator of its financial soundness.

Drawbacks of EBITDA

While arguably EBITDA’s greatest strength is the firm focus it places on baseline profitability by excluding capital expenditure, some have viewed this as a potential weakness.

This is because, by ignoring expenditure, it can allow companies to subvert any problem areas in their financial statements. Due to the nature of the formula and the information it discounts, it can overshadow some risks in a company’s performance.

As such, EBITDA does not fall under Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), which means companies can interpret the formula and its components in different ways. This flexibility can help them hide red flags that prospective buyers could later pick up during due diligence.

Therefore, it is recommended that you work with trusted financial advisors and M&A specialists to ensure you do not overreach in pursuit of the largest EBITDA number possible. This way, you have a clearer idea what values can be eliminated from the equation, ensuring nothing causes problems at the due diligence stage, which could result in a breakdown of trust and a loss of time and money.


What is the Debt to EBITDA ratio?

The Debt to EBITDA ratio is calculated by dividing a company’s liabilities by its EBITDA value. It measures a company’s ability to pay off its debts adequately. The lower the ratio, the more likely a business will be able to pay any obligations when they are due, while a higher value means it could be difficult to clear their debts, acting as a warning sign for buyers.

What is the EBITDA to sales ratio?

The EBITDA to sales ratio is used by analysts and buyers to determine a company’s profitability by comparing its revenue to its earnings. This is calculated by dividing EBITDA by a company’s sales. It is useful in comparing similar-sized businesses where the underlying variables of their cost structures are unknown.

What is the EBITDA to fixed charges ratio?

Similar to the Debt to EBITDA ratio, the EBITDA to fixed charges ratio identifies a company’s ability to pay off its fixed charges and similar debts, usually determined over a four-quarter trailing period.

What is the difference between my EBITDA margin and my profit margin

The net profit margin is one of the most crucial indicators of a company’s financial health, calculated through the following formula:

Net Profit Margin = (Revenue – Cost of Goods Sold – Operating Expenses – Other Expenses – Interest – Taxes) / Revenue x 100

This gives an indication of how much profit each dollar of sales generates. EBITDA differs from this by accounting for all expenses generated by production and daily operations but adding back costs of depreciation and amortization.

What is the difference between cash flow and EBITDA?

Free Cash Flow and EBITDA are two ways of assessing the value and profitability of a business. While EBITDA demonstrates a company’s earning potential after removing essential expenses like interest, tax, depreciation and amortization, free cash flow is unencumbered. It instead takes a firm’s earnings and adjusts it by adding in depreciation and amortization, then reducing working capital changes and expenditures.

Both techniques should be utilized among the many used to determine business value.

Is EBITDA a GAAP measure?

EBITDA does not fall under a Generally Accepted Accounting Principle (GAAP) as a measure of financial performance. This means that its calculation can vary from one company to another as there is no standardized approach to EBITDA.

Would you like to learn more about EBITDA?

Hopefully this in-depth guide has given you a clearer idea of how to define EBITDA, how it’s applied to business valuations, the meaning of its use and its benefits and drawbacks.

A good understanding of EBITDA is crucial if you are considering selling your business. This is the formula many analysts, buyers and investors will employ to determine the potential and value of your company, so it’s important your documentation highlights this. It will mean you’re speaking their language.

If you’d like to learn more about the what, how and why of EBITDA and other key aspects of valuing and selling a business, you can join us at our complimentary executive conference.

Held throughout North America, these conferences educate thousands of business owners about how and when to exit your business for the maximum value. By breaking down the process, defining key terms and outlining common mistakes to avoid, our conference is the essential starting point for the optimal sale of your company.

Alternatively you can contact our team directly for M&A advice and guidance. Call us at 972-232-1121 or send us a message for more information.

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We had the pleasure of working with Mr. Ahmad Behjati Managing Director, M&A, for Generational Equity during our acquisition of Papa's Dodge in late 2021. Generational Equity and Mr. Behjati represented and marketed Papa’s Dodge. As our primary contact, Mr. Behjati was professional in every facet of this acquisition process, conveying valuable advice most times and assisting us in every step of the process.
Rick Greene of Dobbs Equity Partners LLC
We were happy to see the interest in our company and what we cherished has not just a valuable company but an important company to the communities we served in.
Larry Moore, Owner, A Company Portable Restrooms
We were represented by Michael Goss with Generational. The due diligence was grueling and exhausting, but Michael propped us up and kept us motivated throughout the process. Debi and I continued to ask each other how we could possibly make it through this process without the assistance of Michael. Michael's professionalism and knowledge is absolutely amazing, and we are so blessed to have had him by our side as we made our future dreams come true.
Bob and Debi Lee, Owners of BL Technology, Inc and BL Tl Services, LLC
I quickly recognized that Don was working for Sharpe Mixers above all else, and held our interests above others.
Jay Dinnison, Owner of Sharpe Mixers
We knew it would be a difficult task to have someone really understand our business and our market, prior to researching a possible buyer, so it was imperative that we found someone of your caliber, with definite proven experience in this area.
Rick Nowak, President/CEO, Kurz Electric Solutions, Inc.
The professionals at Generational Equity then helped develop a roadmap for enhancing the value of the firm and an evaluation report. This was completed by June 14, 2021. We then developed the Confidential Information Memorandum and put Taylor Studios, Inc. on the market by July.
Generational Equity’s professional staff helped me every step of the way. Their network and professionals are the only reason I sold my company this quickly. For me this is a once in a lifetime sale and I was unfamiliar with the process. I was able to lean on them with questions and concerns.
Betty L. Brennan, President, Taylor Studios
I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for all that you have done for us. Not only did you take care of all the aspects of the sale but took extra care to make sure we knew what it looked like every step of the way. I will definitely recommend your company to anyone that is in a position to or looking to exit their business.
Shane and Johanna Kline, Owners of Vision Upfitters
I wanted to write you a quick letter to express our appreciation and our delight on the outcome of helping us through the process of our recent sale. We are very happy with the end result, and are very happy to be able to move forward with all of our future growth plans.
Terry D. Wickman, President, Keytroller
I need to say an immense thank you to Don Ho for his stellar work ethic, attention to detail, and tireless effort. Also thank you to the whole crew at GE! Without you, Don could not do such a phenomenal job. We were shooting for closing and funding before the end of 2020, due to the uncertainty of the political landscape and taxes. I am happy to report we closed last week and will be funding tomorrow.
Dr. Caty J. Catron PhD, RN, VA-BC – Owner, Vic The Picc, LLC
The process was much more involved than I expected and your help, experience and advice was a big factor in making the negotiations go as smoothly as possible.
Terry D. Wickman, President, Keytroller
Generational Equity’s assistance was invaluable in compiling and marketing our business.
Bil MacLeslie, CEO, ipHouse
The help you provided us during each step of this process made us feel very comfortable and confident we were selecting the right approach to transition our Company.
Andy Graham, Vice President, Modern Heating & Plumbing
We thank you Eric and Generational Equity making our dream come true.
Larry Moore, Owner, A Company Portable Restrooms
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Bil MacLeslie, CEO, ipHouse
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Tom Currier, Former President & CEO, Rackmount Solutions
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Robert Evans, President and CEO of Mealtracker Dietary Software
Through the sale process, Generational brought in several interested buyers and we closed in about 6 months. I am so glad I accepted that invitation to the conference and could not be happier with the whole process. The team at Generational coupled with their knowledge and guidance was so valuable that in the end, I know I could never have done this on my own!
JoAnn Ellis, Owner of Fondren 5 Star Kennels
I would like to thank you and your firm, Generational Equity, for being our valued advisors in our journey.
Bil MacLeslie, CEO, ipHouse
I decided to attend the conference and hopefully receive some guidance on how to structure an exit plan of my business. Upon arriving at the conference, I was so impressed with the presentation given by Generational Equity that I set a future appointment that week to discuss the possibility of selling my business with their Senior Managing Director David Robinson.
JoAnn Ellis, Owner of Fondren 5 Star Kennels
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Jay Dinnison, Owner of Sharpe Mixers
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Robert Evans, President and CEO of Mealtracker Dietary Software
The most important contribution I think Ahmad made was with his personality and work ethic. He is sincere, efficient, and very hard working. He was available to me at all times, whether it was for specific detail of the negotiation or just to talk through the bigger picture. He listened, advised, and recommended, but never forced his idea or opinions. In the time we worked together, he became a valued colleague and also a friend.
Salvo Stoch, Founder and CEO of Sleeping Partners
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Ralph Noblin, President of Noblin & Associates
Greetings Mike. Thank you for the captivating and compelling presentation you made at the Phoenix presentation last week. Over many years in business yours was the most informative and well-presented presentation, on any subject, that I have ever attended! Your energy and enthusiasm combined with your concise and captivating support of your positions with easily understood examples and data was compelling.
Pete L.
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Eric Erlandson, Owner, Action Fastenings, Inc.
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Rick Nowak, President/CEO, Kurz Electric Solutions, Inc.
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Rick Nowak, President/CEO, Kurz Electric Solutions, Inc.
T.D., thank you so much! You are a great leader! I love how you are using your gifts and talents to better others. You are clearly a GREAT COACH! This 3 day session undoubtedly changed the future of our business, and very well may have been the sole catalyst to save my company, my health and my marriage! A genuine “thank you” from the bottom of my heart.
Bryan D. Horn, Owner, Over Under Clothing
After attending a conference with GE, I decided that the value they bring would be worth the expense and as soon as I started working with them, I realized that was the right decision. When we started to get LOIs, Fred Zweifel took the lead on the communication and supported negotiations throughout the process, which got tricky as we moved forward. I learned that it can be common for companies to make a great offer then work to erode that price with their discoveries, but Fred and the GE team kept that from happening.
Caroline Connelly, CEO, OptoTest